F2’s answer to the popular Drive to Survive series has returned, and (spoilers) follows Oscar Piastri’s title-winning campaign among other things. But does it still hold the charm of the first two seasons?
That Formula 2 gets its own Netflix-inspired series is neat, and this new season, based on the 2021 championship and released a day before pre-season testing began for the ‘22 campaign, keeps the same format for the most part as past years.
There was a bit more focus on FIA Formula 3, namely on Oscar Piastri’s success the year before and on this year’s action on either side of the Monza F2 round, bringing us in at the Spa-Francorchamps round (handling the sensitivity around Juan Manuel Correa returning to action there as well as ever), before heading straight to Sochi to cover Dennis Hauger’s crowning glory and his rivalry with Jack Doohan.
That was the main shake-up in the format to previous years. There are also some nice anecdotes from Caio Collet, living with Piastri in Oxford. That extra little bit of personal insight into some of the drivers is as fine as ever and that extra little bit of access into the lives of these youngsters is one of the series’ strongest assets. It humanises them, especially compared to how we journalists will have interacted with them (primarily via video calls since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic).
Somewhat understandably, the bulk of the season focuses on some of the main title protagonists from early in 2021, with more impetus on Piastri as his season really starts to kick off. There is a lovely one-on-one interview between Alex Jacques and Mark Webber that provides some real decent insight into Piastri’s strengths.
Unlike the previous season, understandably because of the pandemic messing around with everything, the racing gets underway swiftly in this series.
It’s edited very well for the most part too, and Jacques and Alex Brundle’s commentary as it was live just feels drastically better than DTS’s recorded snippets.
That is perhaps where this season’s strengths are in particular, in telling the story of the racing and showcasing some of the drivers’ qualities – something that was perhaps overlooked by the racing world with the stop-start F2 calendar, and such an intense Formula 1 season that rarely gave anybody a chance to breathe and look at what was going on elsewhere.
One of the most open drivers, predictably, is Dan Ticktum, who gets his chance to shine in an episode surrounding his home round at Silverstone. We even get a very welcome mention of having fans back at racetracks properly. It is just a brilliant, honest and open account of the sort of person he is in and out of the car and as ever he comes out with some excellent quotes. His ejection from the Williams programme doesn’t quite feel as fleshed out as it could be, however.
The season, regardless, kicks off focusing around the one driver stepping up to F1 for this year and that is Guanyu Zhou. The significance of his impact in his homeland of China is covered, and it is just a very good account and introduction to him for F1 fans who want to learn a little more about him ahead of the season.
That episode does totally brush over the first race of the season, which feels a tad odd, but otherwise does a decent retelling of some excellent action at Bahrain before closing off with Zhou’s F1 free practice appearance in Austria.
Theo Pourchaire and Liam Lawson are featured heavily in the second episode, and there are some lovely moments on both drivers – likely title contenders this year, and it flows very well from one driver/team combination to the next. There is some solid stuff on Juri Vips as well, including winning the 100th F2 race of the modern era and building up Hitech GP’s expectations going forward (spoiler: it didn’t amount to much in ’21).
The show did a decent job in getting lines from some of F2’s alumni, including the likes of Alex Albon and champions Nyck de Vries and Mick Schumacher, and they’re utilised very well towards the end of the run of six episodes.
Episode six covers the last two rounds in the Middle East. Enzo Fittipaldi and Pourchaire’s horror Jeddah shunt isn’t shown graphically, understandably, and it introduces the newcomers for the end of the season nicely.
The final round at Yas Marina Circuit gives Robert Shwartzman a chance to showcase his character a bit ahead of his final F2 weekend, certainly more positively than in the previous season, and with some dune buggy racing of all things!
The season concludes covering off Piastri’s title and bringing everybody up to date with the key protagonists’ ’22 programmes, almost adding a bit of a precursor to some of the drivers to keep an eye out on for what is expected to be another season of the show around about this time next year.
All in all, this season does a much slicker job of showcasing the racing and the championship narrative compared to a ’20 season for which it was perhaps much more difficult to do. Some of the drivers outside of the top six do get a few moments of their own – namely race winners Marcus Armstrong, Jehan Daruvala and Richard Verschoor, but not very extensive coverage.
It does feel that as ever but understandably with such limited time to work with, several of the drivers and their stories went simply untouched. We had very little to hear from Christian Lundgaard amid his struggles, or on Verschoor’s quest for funding mid-season, for example. Plenty of drivers who made the podium barely get a mention but covering every driver with the same impact and as extensively is, of course, impossible.
Ultimately, it complements the previous two seasons very nicely. It does a brilliant job on focusing on the key points and the key protagonists of the year and certainly doesn’t overdramatise things like its Netflix counterpart. It’s what you would expect to have for a documentary series on F1TV. This is a very good way to ultimately re-live what a fascinating year in F2.
More on the narratives of Chasing the Dream season three
Five things we learned from the 2021 F2 season opener
Pourchaire: I “disconnected my brain” on way to Monaco pole
How Hitech GP stole the show in Baku
How a team switch has tilted Ticktum towards title contention
How the F2 grid fizzled out of the F1 silly season
Where Hauger made the difference in FIA F3’s short-lived three-race era
Has Zhou shown the qualities to be a success in F1?
How Piastri ascended to another level with his crushing F2 title run
Who was really the fastest driver in F2 2021?